No dirty campaign for her

When Candice Pearce, a former Reno city councilperson, sat down to evaluate her campaign for mayor, she faced a tight budget. She had raised $20,000. But already, she’d spent several thousand on posters, fliers and mailings. Advisers, she says, told her that the best way to run a low-budget campaign is to focus on the negative aspects of the opposition—to convince folks why they shouldn’t vote for your opponent.

The logic makes sense in a way, Pearce says. A negative campaign seems to get you the most bang for your buck. But it just wasn’t for her.

“If that’s what it takes, I’m not going to do it,” she says.

The deadline to file to be a candidate for Reno mayor came and went Monday. Pearce decided not to run. Though she’s backing mayoral candidate Bob Cashell, the former owner of Boomtown Casino, she says residents of Reno will be in good shape if either of the frontrunners—Cashell and trench critic Mike Robinson—win.

“Whatever happens, we’ll have a good mayor,” Pearce says. “Bob and Mike would both be much more open to local people.”

Pearce’s original goal was simply to take on incumbent Mayor Jeff Griffin, who dropped out of the race about a month ago.

“When you’re running, you’re facing a lot of stress,” Pearce says. “Mentally, you have to be up to run. When the mayor was in the race, I was really up for it. When he dropped out, it became less passionate for me. If you don’t have the money, you’ve got to have the passion.”

Pearce, 55, came from a ranch in California where her family raised horses to attend the University of Nevada, Reno. She’s worked as an entertainment editor for Reno Newspapers and as the first public relations representative for Harrah’s Hotel and Casino. Seven years ago, when folks were wondering how to keep tourists in town longer after the air races, she helped come up with the idea for the Great Reno Balloon Race.

She was on the Reno City Council in the mid-1990s , and she cringed when the council botched the Union Pacific merger negotiations. The merger promised more trains through downtown Reno, and the council ended up backed into a corner, where members would eventually have to commit to building the depressed trainway.

When Pearce was interviewed by local broadcasters on Monday night, after the filing deadline had closed, she became “teared-up,” she says, and she spent Tuesday dealing with phone calls. Women are saying they support her decision not to run a smear campaign, Pearce says. “And a lot of men are saying that I really got to them.”

Her predicament illustrates the need for campaign finance reform, she says. The candidate with less money should not have to be put in the position of having to run a mean campaign while the candidate with more money has the luxury of focusing on the issues.

"Hopefully, it’ll make people think when they see dirty campaigning—that they’ll wonder if it’s true," she says. "The ends have never justified the means for me. When I walk down the street, I want to be proud of what I did. I’m not going to lie about somebody or make him into the devil to win."